So, What’s It Like to Drive a Luxury Motorcoach for a Living?
Erin Brown started delivering flowers when she was 21 years old. Now she’s driving the big rigs.
When Erin Brown was 21 years old, she started delivering flowers for Wilde Side Florist in Milford. When she became a mom a short time later, she transferred into a career where she could take her child with her to work. She became a school bus driver, also in Milford, and when her daughter was old enough for daycare, she moved over to driving a minibus for the Headstart program. After positions as a school bus driving in Marlborough and delivering packages for FedEx, she took a break from behind the wheel to manage one of the largest water jet companies on the East Coast.
The travel bug, though, got the best of her.
“I needed to get back on the road and found my home with Foxy Travel,” said Brown.
She’s been driving as a career ever since, and she just “loves her job.”
Brown celebrates three years as a driver for Foxy Travel/FTI Coach on April 1.
Here, we get to know Brown, and what it’s like to drive the big, luxury rigs as the ones at Foxy Travel/FTI Coach:
What do you love about it? What’s appealing about this type of work?
Driving for a motorcoach company is such a game changer. Every day is different. We get to meet the most diverse people and we get to visit places we didn’t even know existed. One day, we are driving overly-excited elementary kids who have never seen a “fancy bus” on their first ski club trip to the mountain. The next day, we are working with some of the top professionals around the world shuttling them from world class executive suites and hotels to business meetings and outings. Several times per month we get to drive overnight groups all around New England, whether its an out-of-town sports team competing against us locals or a private charter sightseeing all of our history. We also partner with many of the local bus companies and tour groups and have all built an amazing report as extended family. It is always a good time when drivers run into each other out there over the road. You could be 1000 miles from home and still run into someone you know.
What do you love about working with this company?
I just love Foxy; we really are an extended family. Keith and Don [Menard, owners] are always going out of their way for their drivers and co-workers. Everyone is on a first name basis and we are always happy to see each other. Keith strives very hard to take care of his drivers. He puts his name on the line when a driver has an issue, unlike any company I’ve seen. They have been more flexible during my times of need with scheduling, always trying to work around appointments and single motherhood.
What’s your favorite kind of trip and why?
Some of my favorite experiences have been driving out onto the Tarmac of our local Airports such as TF Green and Bradley in Connecticut and picking up our teams right from their private planes. Often we have police escorts for major games and we get to stay in the most prestigious hotels. Every season has a different agenda so we are always on the go. This is not the job for the faint of heart.
What’s something that you may have to deal with that people who aren’t in this business have to deal with/think about?
Some days, we are up at 3 a.m. for a 5 a.m. pickup and are out all day long, then the next day we have to be up at 6 p.m. and be out all night. There is a definite learning curve when adapting to a non-sleep schedule. Most of us keep our blankets and pillows hidden and sneak in a catnap while our group is off exploring. I, myself, like to make a bed out of the luggage bay under the bus when the weather is good – just open both sides of the bay doors and there is plenty of shade and a cool breeze that can make any parking lot feel like a beach resort. Of course we have state and federal guidelines for safely operating our coaches and Foxy is very diligent when it comes to the safety of our customers. If a job comes through that will put a driver “over hours”’ they have no problem sticking up for the driver and telling the customer they need to change their times or they will make arrangements to swap out drivers. My challenge is always food. We get to eat some of the best meals with our amazing groups – great for the soul, bad for the body. By the time we get home we are usually too exhausted to work out and then turn around and be back out in the coach driving the next day. Most of us have learned how to pack a lunch. I, however, cannot cook!
Any horror stories? Funny stories?
My biggest horror story occurred my very first week on the job. I left the bus lot at 3:45 p.m. heading into Boston. I was already nervous. It was my first time driving a line run from Boston’s South Station to Cape Cod. I was not familiar with the tunnels at that time and got completely lost. GPS is useless in the tunnels and does not accommodate CDL vehicles. It was 5 p.m. in Friday night rush hour. I had a full bus that was depending on me to get them to the ferry. It took me 45 minutes of stress, wrong turns, and 15 phone calls to figure out how to get out of the city. I wanted so badly to park the bus and quit, but being the professional, I knew I could not leave anyone stranded so I did my best to keep my cool and press on. We finally got heading in the right direction but I missed the HOV lane. Great, another mistake and another extra hour of traffic. Most of my passengers were so understanding even though I could feel their frustration and tension. I called my supervisors and explained the situation. They were able to notify the ferry system and no one missed their ride home. I learned many valuable lessons that day. I am so grateful for the passengers who commended my composure during such a stressful time. Boston is full of surprises.
What’s the BEST trip you’ve ever driven on?
I have been so fortunate to drive so many different tours and day trips with Foxy. My favorite tours are always the seven-day Colette tours. I get to travel with amazing groups of people who start out as strangers and leave as best friends. The Au Pair tours with East Coast Edventures are so much fun. We travel to Quebec City for Winter Carnival and Niagara Falls among others, and the kids get to let loose and I get to be a part of their amazing memories. Switching gears, our Division 1 sports teams depend on us to get them from airport to game day and I have been fortunate enough to be lead bus on many occasions. We have a caravan of two to five buses pick the team up right on the Tarmac of the airport and we have a police escort to the hotel. The next day we are escorted from the hotel to the stadium. There really is nothing like it. My job is to make people happy no matter the occasion.